Zimbabwe have included several uncapped players in their squad for the second edition of the Zambezi Challenge which will be played at Harare Sports Club this weekend in an effort to widen their selection base ahead of an important 2023 season.
The Cheetahs are set to have a busy schedule next year with participation in the expanded World Rugby Challenger Series as well as the qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Zimbabwe will also take part in the Dubai leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series in December as an invitational side.
To ensure that the players have the much-needed game time ahead of the coming tournaments, Zimbabwe will be fielding two senior sides namely the Zambezi Cheetahs, an Academy side, and a High-Performance Under-21 side in the Zambezi Challenge which will be played on Saturday and Sunday.
The sides will battle it out against Spartans of Botswana who are the defending champions, neighbours Zambia and a strong Germany team.
Spartans are largely made up of Zimbabwean players based in Botswana.
Cheetahs assistant coach Ricky Chirengende said they will be using the Zambezi Challenge to assess players who have impressed for the national Under-20 side as well as on the local sevens circuit.
Over the past two years, the Zimbabwe selectors have been building trust in a new team consisting mainly of young locally-based players, with the aim of assembling a squad of specialist Sevens players in line with world rugby trends.
The trio of Ryan Musumhi, Godfrey Magaramombe, Munesu Muneta, Nigel Tinarwo and Carlos Matematema are the only survivors from the squad which represented Zimbabwe at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Cape Town two months ago.
“We have seen how well the Under-20s have done this year, as well as other players in the domestic 7s tournaments that have been played. As such we have decided to give opportunities to these players so we can have a closer look at them at training and under pressure situations in games,” Chirengende said.
“The more depth we have, the more we push standards as iron sharpens iron. Our goal is to have the best players representing the Cheetahs and if you are good enough, you are definitely old enough to put on a Cheetahs jersey.”
“We have decided to add a cheetahs Academy team to build depth and expose more players to a competitive two-day tournament. The ideal scenario will be to have both sides in the final and for the teams to compete for the Zambezi Challenge trophy. There is very good competition and we always look to ensure our processes are covered and give ourselves the best possible chance to win,” he added.
The selected players will be keen to impress the Cheetahs technical department which is yet to finalise the squad for the Dubai Sevens in the United Arab Emirates at the beginning of December.
The Cheetahs’ last international action was in September when they took part in the Rugby World Cup Sevens held in Cape Town, South Africa, where they finished 23 out of the 24 men’s teams at the tournament.
Cheetahs squad: Godfrey Magaramombe, Tadius Dzandiwandira, Kuda Chiwanza, Takudzwa Kumadiro, Kudakwashe Nyamakura, Alex Nyamunda, Munesu Muneta, McLean Muhambi, Carlos Matematema, Ryan Musumhi, Nigel Tinarwo, Dion Khumalo
Cheetahs Academy: Prince Dube, Darrel Makwasha, Philip Ehlers, Halger Muchenje, McDonald Kazingizi, Marlon Guruwiro, Shadreck Mandaza, Nathan Tanyanyiwa, Edward Sigauke, Gamuchirai Nekati, Jailos Valentine, Taku Mandandishe